Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thanks, Frank.

This song has been on repeat in my heart all week. I know its not a 'Christian' song, but in so many ways, it is how [the very middle of] my heart has felt this summer. Happy, hopeful, and excited for the future, whatever that is!! I don't usually like the sentence "In the center of God's will" because most days I just want to scream - UHHHH WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN... I feel its sometimes overused, or even used out of context just so we can justify our plans... but I think this is a little taste of what that 'real thing' feels like :)

Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you... if you’re young at heart.
For it’s hard, you will find, to be narrow of mind if you’re young at heart.

You can go to extremes with impossible schemes,
You can laugh when your dreams fall apart at the seams.
And life gets more exciting with each passing day,
And love is either in your heart or on it’s way.
Don’t you know that it’s worth every treasure on earth, to be young at heart.
For as rich as you are it’s much better by far to be young at heart.

And if you should survive to 105, 
look at all you’ll derive out of being alive!
Then here is the best part - You have a head start,
If you are among the very young at heart.

Hey look, I'm in July, while America is still in June. I'm in the future.

Hello everyone! Sorry its been so long. 10 days to be exact... my bad... Bulgaria is busy, especially when you throw in overnight bus trips to even more foreign countries.

Since my last post, I went to Turkey!! Istanbul was BEAUTIFUL. And so interesting! And I ate some great food, bought too many scarves, about half a million Turkish men hit on me (they think that will get the money out of my pockets, pshhh.), I slept next to THE WORST SNORER IN THE WHOLE WORLD at our hostel, went to museums, fell in love with a kitten, and now I have a new fascination with Muslim culture. I learned so much in 3 short days. And It only cost me $250, round trip with food and a bed and handfuls of Turkish delight! I took 330 pictures. I think I liked Istanbul a little :)

This week in Sofia, our leader Jessica has been in Romania with her brother, so the days have been a little slower than most. BUT I think all 5 of us are thankful :) We've been getting much more rest and we're all catching up on our Harry Potter reading. (we're going to see the last movie with some Bulgarian friends, I CAN'T WAIT. I'm 22 but I'll never grow up.) We've spent our free time planning arts & crafts, and also working on plans for a mural we'll be painting with the boys from the camp we're leading next Monday-Friday in Razgrad.

These boys are all living at a juvenile delinquent center in Zavet, and we obviously don't know all the details - but the camp director has suggested we cover topics like forgiveness and acceptance in our daily lessons. I'm really excited, but we're all a little nervous about how the boys will respond to us. They are from 11-18 years old, so planning arts & crafts for them has been a little challenging. But - I LOVE ART SUPPLIES and I like to consider myself crafty :) So I've had a really great time trying to put things together, and we've searched all over Sofia for our supplies. We're smashing plates for mosaics. And making manly friendship bracelets & playing with clay... its gonna be so much fun. I'm really excited to meet them. And we will be with 2 other teams from Trevecca too, so there will be 17 of us that can speak English!!!! hahaha it will probably be music to our little tired ears :) [sidenote, I've heard rumors of us possibly getting to visit an orphanage. And while no one should really be excited to visit a sad place like this, I'm really hoping I'll get a chance to go. Learning about the needs of kids in Bulgaria was one of the main reasons I chose to come to Bulgaria this summer. It weighed on my heart for weeks, and I feel pulled in that direction for some reason... so I'm hoping I can go visit for an afternoon.]

Here is a preview of what we're hoping the mural will end up looking like. If not... its okay :) FLEX.UH.BILL.UH.TEE. I'm learning it over & over this summer. - - -

Our schedule for July - We'll be in Razgrad (6 hours away from Sofia by bus) for 5 days, then onto Montana (2 hours from Sofia) for 6 more days, where we'll be meeting & getting to know the youth group from the Nazarene church there. Then back to Sofia for 6 days, we'll get a little rest hopefully, and some last chances to spend time with the kids we've met here. Then we leave the 21st for Stubel (a village 2.5 hours from Sofia) for the last 10 days, where we'll be putting on a camp for the village kids, & painting/winterizing the church we've been working on since the beginning of June. A W&W team from Washington state will be there to help us as well, so we'll be meeting even more people!! Then on Aug 2nd, we leave for Zagreb, Croatia for our Immerse de-briefing. We're there for 7 days, and then we fly back to America. - WOAH. whirlwind.

Its all so exciting, but its A LOT - I'm scared the month of July is going to go too quickly. And I'm already positive I'm going to miss all of this so so so much.

So, our planning for the boys camp is ALMOST done, and we leave Sofia after church on Sunday. (We're leading worship. In Bulgarian. hahah hopefully the members have some mercy on us!) BUT - on Saturday we're having some of our friends from the high school across the street come over to play cards & watch youtube videos & maybe teach us some more Bulgarian folk dances. We. Love. These. Teenagers. They have been the highlight of our trip so far. If i'm honest... I'm really sad to leave Sofia. Zavet & Montana & Stubel are going to be fun, but I'm always wishing we had more time. Relationships need so much time. Its a real frustration for me at this point. SO I GUESS I'LL JUST HAVE TO COME BACK ;)

BUTTTT anyway. Pray for us through July - its going to be crazy, and I can't wait!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

but then

And then I skyped with my bestfriend/lifepartner for 2.26 hours about our lives and beach trips and Ikea trips and Nashville trips and Germany trips and I was happy, but also awake at 3:42AM Bulgarian time.


I don't know what it was about today exactly - but it was wonderful. 

This morning we went to hang out with some high schoolers at Petko Karavelov (Петко Каравелов), for some conversational English. And we started out shaky, as always. But then, suddenly, 6 teenagers opened up to me. And we talked (through some translation confusion, always hilarious) about Beyonce, America, Bulgarian food, how terrible I am at Bulgarian grammar, New York City, college, Christianity, the club scenes in Sofia, Turkey, WHATEVER, and the 2 hours flew by. They made me sing for them, and quizzed me for at least 20 minutes about how in the world could I NOT have a boyfriend. (I'll be honest, I told them I don't know why not either ;) hahah - and then I gave them the 'I'm too young to get married when I still have so many places to see' speech. Which is the real answer!) Then they took me to cafe, & bought me banitsa, and this completely terrible Bulgarian wheat drink that they all LOVE but I wanted to spit out ASAP. We took turns laughing at the faces I made... I think they tricked me!

Then we sat in a park & talked about Roma people & racial injustices in Bulgaria & Eastern Europe, as well as racial tension in America... thats a normal conversation to have with 6 high schoolers at 10am, right? NO. - When I left, I was on cloud 9. We're headed back for more teaching/conversation time in the morning. I seriously can't wait. 

I had NO idea I'd love this so much you guys. It may have been a fluke, but I feel like spending time with high schoolers may be something I'm good at? Maybe mentoring or something? I just felt so in my element, and these kids had so much to teach me too. And they paid for my lunch. And I was so happy. 

Then - I got to babysit the Mann's kids! They JUST moved here from Kosovo. (They are missionaries, they spent the day working on Visa situations) Sarah is 2, and John is 4. (My grandparents names - loved that) AND WOAHHHHH ARE THEY A HANDFUL. But even with the yelling & time outs, I still enjoyed their precious imaginations during our game of 'I'm the baby, you're the Grandma'. I love nannying cause I feel like I'm practicing for mommyhood one day. Like, a million years from now... :)

And then, I went to the grocery store by myself to grab stuff to make dinner - (crispy ranch chicken with rice and green beans) And I must say, it was yummy. I love cooking for other people! Cooking for yourself is never as fun. I cleaned my plate like a good Bulgarian.

Over dinner, my team got so much closer. Like, miles closer. The events of the day sparked an incredible conversation about our strengths, our differences, being vulnerable with each other, our problems with each other, but also our admiration for each other... I can't even explain how thankful I am for these friends I'm living here with. It was like a collective sigh of relief for all of us - We love each other, and we love it here, and we are even more positive that God put us here for a specific reason. The patience is starting to feel worth it. We're feeling things starting to move, for us personally, but also - the people in this country are really starting to feel like FRIENDS.

Its all just terribly exciting. AND I'm going to Istanbul this weekend. AND we're planning hands on craft activities for our time in Zavet with boys (ages 11-18) who are living in a juvenile delinquent center. AND I get to help with a mural we'll all be painting. AND we're leading worship in Montana in 2 weeks. AND I got to skype with my parents yesterday AND also my BFF/Roommate, AND I'm in my pjs with all the windows open and the breeze is delicious and I'm about to read until I sleep, and things are just wonderful. Completely wonderful.

Today was one of my favorite days in all of life. 

Its always about where your heart is, I guess :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

ф is my favorite Bulgarian letter.

Hello everyone :) I just got a message from my mother, all it said was 'hey, could you please blog soon, everyone here is asking me'... hahah so here I am! and I'm happy you guys wanna know whats up in Sofia!

So I'll just say it again because I always feel the need to explain - blogging about what I'm doing here in this country is just hard. I'm not really sure why, but I think its because figuring this place out is complicated enough, and writing about it means I have to collect my thoughts, and they need to make sense - but they don't. I'm scrambled & terribly curious every day, and while I am simply having THE BEST TIME, its hard to digest, even in small doses. 

So, our time in Stubel was short, but we got a lot done. The village church needed to be totally gutted, they are beginning the final stages of electrical & plumbing work. At the end of July, we'll be returning to work with another team (from Washington State) to paint & put the place back together... and Stubel will have a completely finished Nazarene church building! So Saturday we spent the whole day cleaning out closets & carrying trash to dumpsters and lugging roof tiles to the road, I grew some muscles :) It was some pretty dirty work, we were covered in dust & lots of spiders made homes in my hair and clothes, but I somehow hardly flinched... remember that spirit of willingness I was talking about? Turns out it really helps with your attitude when you're surrounded by bugs you'd normally pitch a fit about :)

Sunday was a rest day, which is a big thing in Bulgaria, and I LOVE IT. Church that morning was held in a village restaurant, totally in Bulgarian, complete with home made doughnuts and wild roses from the little boys we've made friends with. It seemed like they seriously just yanked a rosebush out of the ground and brought it to church with them, all for Lauren, Dana & me??? HAHAH - these boys totally know how to win a girls heart! (Nashville boys, what is your deal? Really, all it takes is flowers. I'm over text messages.) We giggled for 10 minutes, just smelling our flowers over & over :) We thankfully spent the rest of the afternoon reading & napping in our cute little village apartment... at one point I woke up to the sound of sheep outside my window, followed by a rooster crowing at 5pm? 

Monday & Tuesday we cleaned out the store front our friends Gerokia & Mario own - we'll be staying there in July while the W&W team is in the village with us. We cleaned out the TERRIBLY moldy & dank basement, where we will be sleeping... :) We made great progress, which once again, included lots of dust & spiders & no running water, and with the village kids all around us helping, it felt more like a circus than a clean up day - total (fun) chaos. I don't know how to say OMG PLEASE DON'T WALK ON THE FLOOR I JUST MOPPED in Bulgarian, but I know in the grand scheme of things - who cares? We all worked together & eventually made the place look great, and yeah - i'm still a little afraid to sleep in a room full of spiders, but you know what? I'm gonna get over it. Because if I wanted a comfortable & complacent summer, I would have just stayed in America on a beach somewhere. Right? I came here because I want to be moved. I want to learn & I want to experience and I want to see and feel and touch and be pushed and most days of the last month & a half, I've been SO THANKFUL to be a little uncomfortable - because it means I'm growing. And that is just terribly exciting!

We came back to Sofia Tuesday night, and I made a trip to the doctor yesterday because I'm pretty sure I have a sinus infection. He recommended I get my sinus cavities lasered? Ummmm - hahah so that may be a story sometime soon, I'm waiting to see if the meds he gave me work instead :) Woaaaah Bulgarian health care! Lasers offered as the very first option... okay...

Today we had our game morning with members of the church, (AND I WON MY FIRST GAME OF SKIP-BO, a very big accomplishment for me, I bragged for like, 244810 minutes, duh.) and this afternoon we went on a little prayer walk around our apartment complex. (and then the Razgrad[Разград] team got here cause we're all going to see Hillsong London on Saturday!!! YAYAY)

I'll finish up this post with how I was feeling earlier during my prayer walk - I'll just be honest, I don't think I know how to pray for this place. Because I still don't know what they need. I know there is racial tension. I know there is hunger. I know there is brokenness and illness and abandonment and fear, but I don't know how I can help yet, and this is the feeling i've had since my first week here. All of us here are feeling it. There is no quick fix for this place. (I don't mean to paint it all in a terrible light, but there is a vibe in this place - one of depression and distrust) There is no church I can build or school I can paint or VBS I can plan that will fix the deep rooted need for more love here. And they need long term love. And I'm only here for 3 months. That sort of seems long - but ITS NOT. Most of Eastern Europe is this way as well - they need understanding and acceptance and a new way of positive thinking and loving people with PATIENCE... and most of all, they need to know that the love ultimately comes from God himself. 

So that is where I'm at right now. A little frustrated. And a little overwhelmed on how little I really can do. I know thats not the whole story - so I'm waiting for it to pass, but I'm meeting new people and teaching English to sweet girls and hanging out at the mall with them and spending time with members of the Sofia church and we'll be going to new villages in July and hopefully we'll be teaching English to more kids in the next few weeks, but its just hard when I remember that I'm leaving. I still have 2 more months, I know, but it feels like it won't ever be enough to learn enough about this place. I get the distinct feeling that a lot of people here don't understand exactly how much they are worth. I hate it.

Love you guys. Pray for us! I'm not upset at all, its just a strange feeling that is hard to put into words. I'm trying to figure it out, but it may take all summer, or longer :) - Kat

Friday, June 10, 2011

bye, Cофия

well, just for a bit :)

We're headed to Стубел (Stubel, a village out side of Монтана/Montana) till Tuesday - we'll be cleaning a church and hanging out with village kids and using outdoor squatty potties and eating homemade Bulgarian food and getting really dirty and picking up live chickens and cleaning windows and not showering and listening to Bulgarian folk music and I CAN'T WAIT.

Bus leaves at 7:30am, peace out American girl scouts.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

well, actually.

I've been brushing my teeth with a travel 'wisp' brush for over 6 minutes now - 
so I guess I do miss my American toothbrush.

But that is all.

1 month.

Well, I've been out of the country for 1 month as of today - I'm sorry America, but I just don't miss you yet?

Sofia is slowly feeling like home, and as a team, we're creating a pretty steady schedule of teaching English to teachers & middle schoolers (2 days a week for 4 hours), making connections at Starbucks & the fitness center (in our free time), (as well as at restaruants/grocery store/on the subway... just about anywhere someone speaks English to us but mentions they want to learn more) playing card games with members of Sofia church of the Nazarene (thursday mornings), Bulgarian lessons (wed at 5), group prayer meetings & cooking dinner for ourselves :) I've also been eating ALOT of sour gummie bears....

Most 'mission trips' I've been on have been really short, but very hands on. I've mostly worked with VBS or painting or building a church or another building of some kind. I mean, I dug ditches in Mexico in 110 degrees 2 summers ago... but I've always known I'm not really built for hard labor ;)

But this summer is different, because its not really supposed to be a 'mission trip' - its about relationships. That sounds really cliche and cheese-ball-ish, but its true.

So basically, I just moved to Sofia. We're trying to do life just like the Bulgarians do! And we're really bad at it right now :) I'm always talking too loud, I'm not picking up the language very quickly because even the Bulgarians say its HARD, I'm always walking the wrong way on the subway platform, and I'm still not used to paying for water.

But - today, my 5th grade students Johnie & Adiel made me cards because it was their last day of school. We've had 3 (well, sort of 4) lessons together now. One drew a cat on the front because I told her I'm a cat person :) And they spelled my name 100% wrong. In Bulgarian AND English, they wrote all about how much they loved meeting me & that they don't want me to go back to America. I told them I'd be here till August. We're going to the mall together sometime next week. I will keep those letters forever.

Life in Bulgaria is just - different. I'm really enjoying the differences. But - I don't have a HUGE AMAZING THING TO BLOG ALL ABOUT because I'm just living real life - this is not a 'spiritual high church camp feeling' kind of trip, but I'm thankful for that. I'm just learning to be more willing, more flexible, more open, more brave, more patient, more trusting, and LESS 'American'.

I think God is teaching me how important it is to live in a complete spirit of willingness. How can I be lead if I'm not even paying attention? - Kat

Friday, June 3, 2011

in bed

I'm sick.

I've laid in bed all day (while missing cool things like hanging out with the Sunbergs) but I only feel worse. I suppose I have the flu. I guess I'll just stay in bed all night & eat Bulgarian ramen and be thankful that at least I'm sick in a cool place and not in a lame one? ;) just kidding.

I'm supposed to get up early in the morning to go to the Rose Festival in Kazanlak, please pray I feel well enough to go :(